Exclusive First Look: Honda NSX

Exclusive First Look: Honda NSX

Finally. After 10 long years of nonexistence, the Acura NSX – that will be Honda when it arrives in SA – is back.  I spent several days with the completely redesigned icon last weekend at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, that 99-year-old race where drivers hit 240km/h around 156 corners over a 20-kilometre course. Scroll down for the video.

It wasn’t production-ready yet, and it’s facing some significant production delays having to do with the engine. That meant despite initial plans, Acura wouldn’t let me photograph inside it, let alone drive it. But we did get plenty of up-close-and-personal quality time filming the beast dominate the mountain. Two decades after it first created the low-slung, affordable racer that claimed immortal status after its Gran Turismo debut, Honda says it’s only a matter of months before it unleashes the modern version to a salivating public. Let’s hope. This has taken long enough.

That prototype did a pretty good job of keeping me occupied in the meantime. As we know from its debut earlier this year in Detroit, it has a turbocharged V6 engine paired with three electric motors. I was skeptical about how NSX purists would respond to a turbocharged engine rather than something akin to the naturally aspirated rear-wheel drive that pushed the original NSX, but Acura engineers defended the new configuration, saying that the immediate torque of an electric motor combined with the sustained power of a turbocharged engine pairs the best of both worlds. It’s not even about efficiency, they said, it’s about performance. The combination gives maximum thrust at all times.

It all sounds plausible, though I’ll refrain from making a final judgment until I can drive the production version. Other 2016 NSX details of note: 9-speed paddle-shifter transmission and all-wheel drive. It’ll have between 370kW and 440kW and, according to Acura driver Sage Marie, get “competitive” efficiency numbers with the likes of the Audi R8.

To which, by the way, it looks strikingly similar. The early NSX became a design status symbol for its low, lightweight, and late-’80s angular body. It inspired several well-received cars after that, including the McLaren F1. This new version has the same tight, slightly rounded roofline slope and tidy rear end as the Audi, with amble side vents and lovely bold ventricles on the nose. But sharper edges around the tires and front grille as well as along its ribs give it a little more personality than the R8, a more precise look. The visual effect is very on point.

As for the driving effect, Marie says to expect tight, immediate steering and brakes with quicksilver reflexes. He says to expect to forget you’re in a car at all. “The idea is that when you drive the NSX, it feels like the car falls away and it’s just you and the road,” he told me during Saturday’s race in Colorado. The brand-new chassis, engine, and transmission were developed by Honda in Japan and by engineers in Ohio. They’re currently working to slim excess weight from the car, since that hybrid system adds a lot that they wouldn’t normally have to consider in a sports coupe. It’ll all be manufactured in Ohio once production starts. The NSX is likely to arrive in South Africa next year.

Hannah Elliot/Bloomberg